Over the years, Game of Thrones has inspired endless speculation and theories on what may happen next. Some of these predictions have ended up being exactly right, like the truth about Jon Snow’s parentage. Many others have turned out to be completely wrong, unsurprising given the scope of George R.R. Martin’s work and the endless possible ways his many plots could shake out.
But with the HBO television show now preparing to enter into its eighth and final season, we thought it would be illuminating to look at some of the main theories still in play at this stage in the game. It’s hard to speculate on how exactly everything is going to wrap up, considering its just as possible that humanity will be wiped out as someone ends up sitting victorious upon the Iron Throne. But there’s been enough groundwork laid out that we can take a stab at some likely possibilities.
Here are nine theories on what might happen in the final season of Game of Thrones.
1. The Iron Bank Betrays Cersei
The Iron Bank of Braavos has popped up several times over the course of the series, but they were right in the thick of things in season seven. Bank representative Tycho Nestoris showed up in King’s Landing to demand payment on the millions of gold crowns borrowed by Littlefinger during King Robert’s debauched reign, a debt Cersei paid off in full by sacking Highgarden. But according to one theory, her plan to secure a mercenary army with Iron Bank funding may go south if the bank decides to cut ties now that they’ve gotten their money back.
There’s a saying that if you owe the bank $100 that’s your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem. The massive debt accumulated by the crown gave the Iron Bank a vested interest in keeping House Lannister in power. Now that interest is gone and they’re free to back whichever house they believe will serve their interests best.
That could spell disaster for Cersei, who is typically quick to see traitors in her midst but hasn’t seemed to put much thought into the ramifications of paying off this particular Lannister debt. At best, she could find herself suddenly short on gold to pay her current armies. At worst, she may welcome a mercenary army into King’s Landing that has been bought and paid for by her enemies.
2. Euron Greyjoy Gains Control Of A Dragon
At the end of season seven, Euron Greyjoy departs King’s Landing with his fleet. As far as Daenerys and her allies are concerned, he’s going back to the Iron Islands to wait for this whole unstoppable army of the undead thing to blow over. In truth, he’s on his way to Essos to ferry over the Golden Company, the finest mercenary army to ply its trade in the land.
But is that all Euron will bring back with him? A seemingly large plot development in the books has Euron in possession of Dragonbinder, a magical horn that is supposedly able to control dragons. The instrument is a massive six feet long and chars the lungs of any slave unfortunate enough to be forced to blow it. Covered in glyphs and banded in Valyrian steel, it certainly sounds legit… unlike a couple other supposedly magical horns that have popped up in George R.R. Martin’s books.
So this particular theory states you should keep a close eye on Euron when he gets back from his secret mission to Essos. The Eastern lands are full of dark magic and a horn that controls dragons is exactly the kind of thing that would even out the odds between the human factions vying for control of the Iron Throne.
3. Tyrion Betrays Daenerys
Considering there’s a prophecy in the books that Dany will be betrayed three times, there’s no shortage of theories on who has and / or will do the betraying. A leading contender is Tyrion.
Switching sides seemed so simple when he was on the other side of the world, but in season 7 he had to witness the results of that familial betrayal in person as Daenerys torched Lannister armies and almost killed his brother Jaime on the field of battle. At moments he seemed to be wondering whether or not backing Daenerys Targaryen’s conquest of Westeros was the best course of action, and the season finale included a mysterious gap at the end of his meeting with Cersei where who knows what kind of deal they may have struck.
It seems like Tyrion’s loyalties are already divided as he attempts to find an impossible middle ground where he can help Dany win the Iron Throne without every other member of his family being put to death. But in the game of thrones, you win or you die, and it’s possible that Tyrion’s betrayals (real or imagined) are going to land him in some serious trouble with the Dragon Queen as the show comes to a conclusion.
4.Cersei Dies At The Hands Of The Valonqar
Prophecy is a tricky thing, and Game of Thrones is full of ones that are infuriating in their vagueness, ability to be misread, or outright untrue. But one prophecy has been pretty accurate so far: the one given by Maggy the Frog to Cersei when she was a child. “You will be queen… for a time,” she said. “Then comes another, younger, more beautiful to cast you down and take all you hold dear. The king will have twenty children, and you will have three. Gold will be their crowns, gold, their shrouds.”
In the books, there’s another important statement: “When your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”
“Valonqar” means little brother in Valyrian, leading to all sorts of theories as to who the killer will be. Jaime Lannister, who is younger than Cersei by mere minutes? Tyrion Lannister, her other little brother? There’s actually no shortage of people in Westeros that fit the description of valonqar. It could be Euron Greyjoy, who was Balon Greyjoy’s little brother. Theon Greyjoy is also a little brother in his family. And let’s not forget The Hound, another little brother who’s a potential candidate for choking Cersei dead.
Like many other prophecies in Game of Thrones, there’s a thousand ways to spin who the valonqar is, but the end result is the same: Cersei ending up dead. That being said, let’s remember the (for once) wise words of one Jon Snow: have you ever considered this prophet might not have been a reliable source of information?
5. Tyrion Turns Out To Be A Targaryen
This theory has been around almost as long as R+L=J, and goes like this: the Mad King Aerys always had a thing for his Hand Tywin Lannister’s wife Joanna, and there were even rumors that Joanna gave Aerys her maidenhead back when she was a handmaiden for Princess Rhaella. When Tywin married Joanna, a drunken Aerys took liberties with the bride during the bedding ceremony, souring Tywin’s relationship with the king and leading now-Queen Rhaella to send Joanna from court.
That’s what we know. The rest is conjecture: if Aerys was as fond of Joanna as history has noted, is it possible that he took what he wanted, resulting in the birth of Tyrion? Tywin has often hurled insults at Tyrion to this effect, saying “Men’s laws give you the right to bear my name and display my colors, since I cannot prove that you are not mine,” and declaring “You’re no son of mine” with his dying breath.
While Tywin may never have been able to prove or disprove things, Tyrion is about to meet back up with The Three-Eyed Raven formerly known as Bran. He’d be able to clear things up if he decides to put some effort into things… not a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination. But there’s another good litmus test for detecting a Targaryen, and that’s how dragons react to them. So far Tyrion is looking pretty good on this front, having removed the chains from Dany’s dragons in Meereen without ending up a charred mess.
6.The Cleganebowl Finally Goes Down
Out of all the theories, none has been taken up as lustily by fans as Cleganebowl, the pet name for the long-awaited showdown between The Hound, Sandor Clegane, and his older brother The Mountain. And while the two Cleganes ended up face to face during the season seven season finale, no epic battle broke out. But Sandor did imply it was fate that they’d fight to the death.
“What did they do to you?” he asked. “Doesn’t matter. It’s not how it ends for you, brother. You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known.”
The obvious answer to that question: The Hound. The Hound is coming for you to make you pay for burning half his face off. Cleganebowl practically confirmed. Get hyped!
7. Bran Travels Back In Time To Fix / Ruin Everything
As cool as the whole Hodor “Hold the door” scene was, it might have doubled as a proof of concept giving us show watchers an idea of how time travel works in the Game of Thrones universe. Why include any of that unless Bran plans on taking more trips through history in an effort to tweak things in humanity’s favor?
There’s a number of theories on what that may entail. One posits that Bran is actually Brandon the Builder, the legendary figure that worked with the First Men and Children of the Forest to raise The Wall. Another questions whether Bran is responsible for driving the Mad King Aerys insane by whispering warnings of the Others into his ear. And then there’s the idea that Bran may have trapped himself in the past where he ended up becoming the Night King himself. (Either way, the Night King might have his own plans.)
An important thing to remember when discussing time is the original Three-Eyed Raven’s claim that “The ink is dry,” meaning there’s no changing the past. Anything that Bran does in the past has already been taken into account in the present, so he may not be able to change things as much as viewers may expect. That probably won’t stop him from trying, and possibly setting off the events that led to the Night King’s existence in the first place.
8. The Prince That Was Promised Is Revealed
This is an important one: since season one we’ve been hearing all about Azor Ahai, the Prince That Was Promised. According to legend, Azor Ahai was R’hllor’s chosen warrior in the battle against the darkness and whoever ends up being the second (or third or who knows) coming of Ahai will undoubtedly be the key to driving back the Night King and his army of White Walkers. But who is the Prince That Was Promised? No one has any idea, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of theories.
Melisandre thought it was Stannis, until she decided it was probably Jon Snow. But wait! According to Missandei, the “prince” in Prince That Was Promised could just as easily mean “princess” which opens the door for Daenerys to be the PTWP. As if that wasn’t enough options, the Prince That Was Promised may end up being the child of Jon and Dany, which would make a lot of sense considering the books series is called the Song of Ice and Fire.
That would be bad news for all the current characters we know and love, since it would probably take a Jon/Dany child 16-plus years before they’re ready to fulfill their destiny. But given Martin’s love of grim endings, why wouldn’t he finish his story with Westeros under a thick sheet of ice, with just the glimmer of hope that the hero of prophecy will eventually set things right?
9. Samwell Tarly Ends Up Writing It All
An interesting meta theory that has grown in popularity suggests that everything we’re witnessing in Westeros has already happened, and we’re just getting a history of the events as written by Maester Samwell Tarly. This theory got a big boost when Sam arrived at the Citadel in Oldtown and we saw an astrolabe hanging from the great library almost identical to the one we see in the opening credits of the show.
The showrunners seem to have thrown a sly wink towards this theory in the latest season, as well. When Maester Ebrose tells Sam he’s writing “A Chronicle of the Wars Following the Death of King Robert I,” Sam suggests he name it “something a bit more poetic.” A Song of Ice and Fire, perhaps?